Monday, June 25, 2012

Reston: Thoughts From Inside the Old Guys' Race

Evo sits on the front riding tempo, and riders try to launch, but at this pace, they hang within eyesight, close enough to tempt easy bridges.  The bridges then fill in the space between the pack and the break, and then there is only the pack.

On the corner before the finishing straight stands a ponytailed man in a France kit; he speaks French to a road guard, and every other word from his mouth is peleton.  France has just lost to Spain in the Euro Cup, but it does not phase him.

A tall, incredibly thin boy sits on his bike and fields questions and congratulations from strangers.  His bars sport slightly sullied pink bar tape.  He is not sure what races he will do to finish out his season:  Tour de l'Aviner, or the Tour of Utah and the US Pro Challenge in Colorado.  He is, he confirms, signed up for the Tour of Page County next week.

On her trainer, the winner of the women's race cools down.  She has just returned from a week in Minnesota where she raced as if paid to do so, and lived on granola and threatened to punch her teammates in the sacred area.

I was just in Bethesday last night, and this place, Reston, is a mirror of it:  Julio's, American Tap Room, red brick walkways, coffeeshops, and everywhere populated with what the Frenchman who says "le peleton" calls le bourgeoisie.  There are places to eat, drink, and--unusually for a suburb--to sit outside without fear of cars running you over or drowning out your conversation.  But why does it have to be so nightmarishly similar to its suburban doppelganger?

We plow through the main stretch, full on, gaps opening, some at their limits, the voices of many in our ears; we are climbing slightly.  Then the apex, and water bottles are out.  Droplets splatter my glasses as AVC douses his head.  No one wants the front, and we clot the road.

We breathe and the sweat is dropping off our chins onto our thighs.  We are tight, together on the downhill, two-wide through turns at almost forty miles an hour; our fingers rest on, but do not engage, our brakes.  There is a feel of silence here, on the back of the race, among the body.

We are only thinking in microseconds--who is around, what corner is ahead, how many laps, what teams are missing from this break, how much water is in our bottle.  As if we have no families, no jobs, no childhood, no future--risked here in this kilometer circuit through this replicated suburban center.

"75 dollar preme for Clyde's is up the road!"

We wonder if the effort is worth it, who we would take, whether it would somehow placate our wives to present them with a dinner at a respectable establishment, won through cycling.  As if it isn't futile.  As if we race to go to Clyde's.  As if we race for reasons other than to race.

Two riders go, and Evo is no longer there to bring them back.  The race is up the road, and I feel an elbow bump, and I fall back, willing to let the end of this ride off, until the next one.

There's the post-race beer, then the ride back to DC on the W&OD with grandmothers on hybrids and children on training wheels, dogs without leashes, and the silence of a path, the roar of the highway, and the sensations of the race still playing through the day and then the night.


Chuck Wagon said...

Jeez that was downright lyrical. You talk purtier than a $10 whore!

Kevin Cross said...

Thanks, man. Haven't got the win this year, so I gotta find some words to make being pack fodder seem not so blah. Keep the flattery coming.